A Lot Happened Here

15901 Onaway Road, across from the north gym parking lot, has been vacant since 2009 and may soon change hands again

The empty lot at 15901 Onaway Road, photographed May 24. A Realtors sign appeared in the front yard the week of May 20.

Daniel Carroll

The empty lot at 15901 Onaway Road, photographed May 24. A Realtor’s sign appeared in the front yard the week of May 20.

Across from the high school’s west parking lot sits an empty, grassy lot. The lot is empty, but it isn’t abandoned. 

Most people see it and don’t give it a second thought, but the story of this lot involves dogs, economic recession, foreclosure, search warrants, property damage, demolition and multi-million dollar real estate fraud. 

An image of the property in 2007, before it was torn down. It was owned by Tyrone Cody at the time.
(Google Maps)

Sandwiched between two houses, 15901 Onaway Road is .76 of an acre. (For comparison, a football field is 1.32 acres.) The property previously had a house standing on it. But now, grass has grown over the house’s foundation and merged with the front and back yards. 

Because the city carefully inspects each property, houses usually are not torn down in Shaker Heights; they’re either maintained or renovated. 

But there’s a record of everything, and a visit to the Shaker Building Card Index revealed that the house, which featured a slate roof, two-car garage, and a forced-air heating system, was built in 1951. The house changed hands only once in 51 years until a man named Tyrone Cody purchased it in 2002.   

Shaker Heights Housing Commissioner William Hanson is familiar with the property.

After Cody had owned the house for four years, the city animal control officer entered his home with an administrative search warrant in 2006 and inspected the house “for an excessive number of dogs,” Hanson said in an email. 

While doing this search, the city discovered that the house was in awful shape. There was “water leakage, hanging wires, holes in ceilings and walls, and unsanitary living conditions,” Hanson said. After the first search revealed the state of the house, a judge authorized a second search warrant a month later. 

Despite the house’s deteriorating condition, Cody owned the home until 2008, when the Great Recession hit. In the U.S., the recession cost more than 8 million citizens their jobs and reduced the value of homes by hundreds of thousands of dollars in some parts of the country. That April, Cody did not make sufficient mortgage payments, and the EMC Mortgage Corporation foreclosed on, or took possession of, the house. 

A foreclosure sale occurs when a homeowner has no choice but to give up their house to the company that loaned them money to buy the property. Every time a house is transferred to a new owner (in this case, a mortgage company), a point of sale inspection occurs, when city workers come in to inspect the house and its condition. If the house is in bad condition, violations must be corrected by the seller or the buyer by the date the city establishes. The point of sale inspection for 15901 took place on June 16, 2008, and even more things were wrong with the house. The inspection record cites 252 violations for the interior of the

The Shaker Heights Public Library, in collaboration with the city’s Landmark Commission, maintains a digital collection of more than 10,000 building cards, which the city created for all homes after they were built. Pictured are both sides of the building card for 15901 Onaway Road. It was handwritten in 1951, when the house was built. The card contains information about the dimensions of the home, the garage, roof, heating and electricity services, among other details.

house, and 71 for the exterior. 

“It [the house] was declared a public nuisance because of its condition in November 2008,” Hanson said. According to Ohio Revised Code, “ ‘Public nuisance’ means a building that is a menace to the public health, welfare, or safety; that is structurally unsafe, unsanitary, or not provided with adequate safe egress; that constitutes a fire hazard, is otherwise dangerous to human life, or is otherwise no longer fit and habitable.” 

After this declaration, the house was demolished on March 9, 2009.

Tyrone Cody pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud on June 8, 2009. According to a Cleveland.com news story, Cody took part in a scam that took in around $3 million. Cody and seven others, including a Shaker Heights attorney, collaborated to inflate the values of homes. Then they helped buyers use fraudulent information to get home loans, and used the loan funds to pay fake bills for repairs on the homes. The scam did not involve 15901 Onaway Road. 

EMC Mortgage Corporation sold the property in November 2009 to a group of neighbors. The neighbors owned and maintained the lot for 12 years until September 2021, when they sold it.  

A photo taken during inspection is indicative of the damage found throughout the home, which was later demolished. (Shaker Heights Housing Department)

Until a few weeks ago, tiny white flags cluttered the property. In the world of building, white flags mean that there is going to be digging on that part of the property. This may mean that a basement or foundation will be excavated, or pipes will be placed or replaced. 

On May 20, however, the lot was again for sale. A Realtor’s sign is now in the front yard, and the listing price is $231,000. Jackie Collesi, a residential relocation specialist for Howard Hanna, described the property as “a good sized lot that is buildable. It is a great location because you have access to all of the schools that are there.” 

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